Post 8 — OMG: He Has Sensory Issues!

Hindsight is painfully clear. I am afraid that I never would have figured out that my son’s problems were due to brain development; and yet it was so blindingly obvious once The Explosive Child (R Greene, PhD) presented the concept to me. I feel similarly with the sensory sensitivity issue. I think, Honestly, I couldn’t see that for myself? I needed someone to spell it out for me? Sadly, I did need to read it someplace, and when I did it was glaringly evident.

Many ground battles would have been avoided if I’d had the patience or empathy to put two and two and two together to realize that recurrent wars were being waged over sensory-related issues. My son threw fits over clothing and clothing tags; the tiniest scrape or hurt on his flesh or feelings; crowded places; and sound. He blocked his ears against the apparent roar of the toilet flush for many years.The way certain things felt by both touch and atmosphere; and how things sounded and tasted.

FIFA in My Kitchen

Food issues were huge, varied and complex. Mealtimes continued so long I began to time them, which he hated, then confronted with the mystery food issue as well as the pressure of a timer. Again in hindsight I wish I’d had the clarity and patience to have treated him more sensitively. However, you’d have to be either a saint or lobotomized to keep a calm, cool head every moment of every day with a child like this.

He was so hypersensitive to the most minor injury that we renamed him Giancarlo and Giovanni in honour of the Italian soccer players who invented the game’s flopping and diving. His anguished flops would have been the envy of many a pro soccer player. I made certain to have many boxes of fun Band-Aids in the house always, because just to run to the box comforted him on many levels.

Experience Anguish Project

He didn’t enjoy kids’ birthday parties and refused to have his own. Although he had a fabulous musical ear and loved music, I missed the cues and brought him to Seattle’s ‘Experience Music Project Museum’. It turned out to be a place that I can see now combined each and every sensory thing he hated most: a cacophonous jumble of ear-splitting sounds; crowds of loud strangers careening in every direction; a huge, Escheresque interior; nonstop visuals of every type and on every available space. My own cluelessness amazes me!

It took me years to be sensitive to his reactions to seemingly (to me) insignificant details. In my defense, he was also exploding over schedule changes, being hurried, being irritated, or any number of issues. Raising him was to live in a minefield. His behavioural reactions were so explosive and overwhelming that I see how I missed the comparatively smaller issues.

But, as time has passed and as he has developed, those hypersensitivities — while still apparent — have revealed their flip sides. He is enormously empathetic (the mirror of having his feelings mortally wounded by the smallest wrong gesture); incredibly tactile and cuddly (mirror of temperature, touch, and clothing sensitivities); a talented musician with perfect pitch and astounding aural sophistication (sensitivities to sound and volume); and adept in other areas where we only previously saw the negative image. He enjoys long hikes on mountains and in the forest and quiet reading; and he now recognizes his own need for such quiet time.

Now 11, he is still more sensitive than most to certain things. But we’re able to discuss some things, accept some and laugh others off. Thank God we’re finally at an age and stage where anything can be laughed off.




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